Man v. Lion Host Boone Smith Discusses Getting Up Close and Personal With African Lions

For wildlife filmmakers, the only way to safely explore the startling powers of the African lion has been at the end of a mighty long lens — until now. Man v. Lion follows veteran big cat expert Boone Smith across the Nambiti Game Reserve, tracking three male lions searching for their next meal. We follow along as they hunt for food and search for a mate in the open African bush. But to truly understand what makes these brothers tick, Boone will go face to face with them. One inch of acrylic separates him from one of the world’s top predators, bringing audiences closer to African lions than ever before. We take an in-depth look into lions’ unique physical attributes, their intricate hierarchy, and their complex hunting strategies. Boone explores each stage of a lion’s kill — the stalk, the pursuit, the jump, strength and the bite — all leading up to the final face-off: Boone in the middle of lions devouring their prey, close enough to feel their breath.

Written by Boone Smith:

When I was first approached with the idea of getting into a transparent acrylic box next to a carcass with wild lions, I will admit I was a bit skeptical. There are a lot of obvious concerns that can pop into your head as to how this could go south really fast. However, after having some important discussions about logistics and realizing I could potentially be inches from lions–safely–and observe some incredible behaviors, it was just too much to pass up.

The night the lions arrived, we (myself and a cameraman) spent over 6 hours in the box; but it seemed like one. The lions started coming by to check out the box only 20 minutes after we had locked ourselves inside. The tensions were pretty high. We didn’t know how they would respond, so we stayed as quiet and motionless as possible to start out. However, it didn’t take long for the lions to realize we were inside. That was both nerve-racking and a relief. We no longer needed to worry about being caught, but now we needed to worry about their reaction–or how our presence might change their behaviors. Luckily, the lions’ curiosity of the box–and us–soon turned to sorting out a hierarchy for feeding and breeding rights. We witnessed lion behaviors from inches away at times: mating, dominance displays, aggression, and feeding. To be so close to smell the dust, the blood–the lions–and feel their roars was truly a unique and incredible experience. Our proximity allowed us to view the dynamics as if we were one of the pride.

The only moment of doubt came when the cable that anchored the carcass hooked onto the angle iron on the bottom of the box. This is when I truly gained an appreciation for the power of these big cats. One male lion was able to drag the box (900 lbs), both our combined weight and gear (200 lbs), and a wildebeest (250 lbs) about 6-7 feet; and make it look effortless. That’s almost 1500 lbs!

Lots of planning and preparation went into this project to make it a success. A little luck didn’t hurt either. Despite the risks, the experience was a rare opportunity to see lions like never before and gain a true appreciation for the king of the beasts.

BIG CAT WEEK continues tonight at 9 PM ET/PT on Nat Geo WILD!

Comments

  1. leashaun boulware
    Alabama
    November 29, 2014, 1:27 pm

    A truly WILD! experience. Boone, you have to be one of the most brave and or privileged beings…alongside your cameraman. Please keep us informed about how our lives and decisions impact the future of Big Cats. Thanks for sharing and keep your head in the game….leashaun

  2. James Meehan
    Banff Alberta
    November 29, 2014, 5:16 pm

    Man vs. Lion reminds me of all of the Italian, Swiss, Germans and others that come to the Canadian Rockies riding effeminate 10 speed looking bikes with pockets full of granola stopping to feed the bears.

  3. robin
    usa cape cod massachusetts
    November 30, 2014, 7:35 pm

    I LOVED man v. lion it was simply amazing!
    Thank you for sharing your childhood wish. The Namibia brothers are so powerful and beautiful!!! I am still in awe over this program. The ROAR and strength of these three brothers are so unbelievable, I am so disappointed there are people who still hunt in game parks!!! they should be out lawed.

  4. Mary Dooley
    United States Marietta Georgia
    December 7, 2014, 4:36 pm

    Thank you Boone for all that you do and your continued support of these beautiful and majestic animals. Seeing the excitement on your face when you are in the thick of things is priceless, the love of what you do transcends in your actions. I truly enjoyed all the Big Cat programming during Big Cat week; I have a new respect for these animals.